Night Music: The Sky Is Crying

November 30, 2019

The Power of Authority

November 30, 2019

I am a great supporter of our transit drivers, but sometimes you have to wonder.

I was on a #20 earlier this afternoon heading south down Commercial. An elderly woman, obviously blind with a cane, stood up at the stop near Grant Street and asked the driver:  “Is this Graveley?”

“Yes,” he said, and she prepared to get off.  Three passengers including me shouted at her that we were actually at Grant not Graveley, so she sat down again.

“They are wrong,” called out the driver. “This is Graveley.”  Even as we continued protesting the truth, she accepted his word of authority and got off.

As we drove on, I challenged the driver and, as we pulled into the stop at Graveley, he finally admitted that he might have been wrong.

“Oh well, never mind” he said.

Living Without Electricity

November 29, 2019

I am sure that most people reading this blog hardly give a thought to electricity, excerpt perhaps when the utility bill arrive or a storm disables a few power lines for a day or two.  Having electricity seems as natural and normal as breathing.  But here we are, well into the 2000s, and more than one billion people still don’t have what the rest of us consider an essential necessity.

Here is a map from Virtual Capitalist showing where — mostly in Africa — the lack of power hits home.

Select the image for a larger view.

As the article notes:

“Between 2009 and 2015, solar PV module prices fell by 80%, ushering in a new era of affordability. Solar powered mini-grids don’t just have the potential to bring electricity to new markets, it can also replace the diesel-powered generators commonly used in Africa.”

Image: Las Vegas Venetian Lobby

November 29, 2019

Night Music: The Last Time I Saw Richard

November 28, 2019

Image: Bird’s Breakfast #2

November 27, 2019

Night Music: Bamboleo

November 26, 2019

Photos of Historic Places

November 26, 2019

Yes, there is an award for photographing historical sites.  The overall winner this year is:

Mulberry harbour, by Stephane Hurel

My own favourite of those shortlisted:

Shravanabalagola Temply, by Vinor Kumar Kulkarni

Snacks Tonight #30

November 25, 2019


Late last night I made a Spanish treat called leche frita, fried milk.  I couldn’t resist one with my tea this morning.  Very good.

Image: Greenspace #5

November 25, 2019


See others in the Greespace series

Poem: As The World Turns

November 25, 2019


As our world winds

through the stars,

do we leave sparks

in our wake?

Do we leave others guessing

what voices we use,

and what good

friends we’d make?

Are we more than

a falling garnet or

just a crashing bore

for heaven’s sake?

Night Music: Sweet Gene Vincent

November 24, 2019

Anarchism on The Drive — Tonight!

November 24, 2019

Erica Lagalisse will be talking about her recent book, Occult Features of Anarchism: With Attention to the Conspiracy of Kings and the Conspiracy of the Peoples, tonight at the People’s Co-op Bookstore, 1391 Commercial from 7pm to 9pm.

Erica Lagalisse is an anthropologist and writer, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the London School of Economics (LSE), and board member at The Sociological Review. Lagalisse’s doctoral thesis,“Good Politics”: Property, Intersectionality, and the Making of the Anarchist Self, explores anarchist networks that cross Québec, the United States and Mexico to examine contradictions within indigenous solidarity activism and settler “anarchoindigenism”. The comparative work also throws into relief the idiosyncracies of university-educated Anglo-American leftists, and draws on anthropological, feminist and critical race theory to show how they have preempted the black feminist challenge of “intersectionality” by recuperating its praxis within the logic of neoliberal self-making projects and property relations.

As always, the event is free!

Black or White?

November 23, 2019

Last night I made hot and sour soup.  It was the third time I have made it since discovering an excellent recipe for it some weeks ago.  This time, I went to the effort of grinding white peppercorns for the finishing touch. Why is this worth the mention?

Growing up in London, ALL pepper was white and, frankly, I didn’t care for it much at all. It was too sharp for me, too peppery, I guess.  It was not until I came to North America in the 1970s that I discovered the joy of freshly ground black pepper.  When I was a lad, only the toffs, in their expensive restaurants, had black pepper — we of the working class had to make do with white.

When I mentioned this to the Everloving, who grew up in Kansas, she said it had been quite the opposite for her — only “posh” folks had white pepper.

Odd that something so basic should have such opposite connotations.

Most Successful Media Franchises

November 23, 2019

The always interesting Visual Capitalist has produced a list of the most successful media franchises of all time.  It is a list that includes some obvious properties and some, quite frankly, that I have never heard of:


The infographic on their site gives a lot more detail on how these figures are arrived at.  The biggest surprise for me is that Winnie the Pooh makes #3 on the list, ahead of Star Wars and Mickey Mouse!

Image: Capsicum Chaos

November 23, 2019

Night Music: Brass In Pocket

November 22, 2019

You Can’t Hide

November 22, 2019

Over the years I have written quite a bit about government and corporate surveillance, and the ability of massive computing power to digest and process multitudes of data from that surveillance to produce individualized profiles of every single person on the planet — no matter how far off the grid you think you are.  Here is an article from this month’s New AtlantisAll Activities Monitored by Jon Askonas — that tracks the history of, and warns of the implications of, the modern wave of surveillance and processing technologies.

He cites the US military’s “Gorgon State” operation in Iraq:

Gorgon Stare and several other programs like it allowed American forces in Iraq to continuously surveil cities in their entirety, unblinkingly and without forgetting. After an IED attack, analysts could look back over the video to find the insurgents who had placed the bomb, and then further to find all of the places they had visited. Analysts could also cross-reference this data to other intelligence or surveillance, and build up lists of likely insurgent hideaways. Algorithms could trace individual cars or people over time, and even highlight suspicious driving activity for further investigation, like cars that did U-turns or followed other cars. Operators of the system could do this work in real time as well, coordinating with troops on the ground to pass on fresh intelligence or transmit the live images …

“Big data analytics, persistent surveillance, and massive increases in computing power enabled more sophisticated ways of … fusing intelligence from all kinds of sources. Social media, cell phone intercepts, captured documents, interrogations, and Gorgon Stare’s aerial surveillance could be used to build a nigh-inescapable net.”

Gorgon State was directly inspired by the 1998 movie Enemy Of The State, and its potential for use outside the military sphere was obvious.

“Programs like Gorgon Stare were, strikingly, inspired by a movie about government abuse of surveillance power. From the beginning, all involved understood exactly what they were trying to build, its power, and its potential for abuse. As a noted philosopher of science once warned: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should …

“Like so many other technologies created for war, this type of surveillance has come home, and early adopters have found many inventive uses.

Security companies have used it to protect events like NASCAR races — in one case, the surveillance system allowed a security team to quickly track back a hostile fan to his trailer to eject him from the event.

The Forest Service deploys wide-area surveillance to monitor potential forest fire zones.

And of course, a number of law enforcement agencies, ranging from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to local police departments, have experimented successfully, if controversially, with using the technology to fight crime …

Beginning in early 2016, … cameras were flying above crime-ridden Baltimore, with knowledge only of the police department — even the city government at first didn’t know about it…”

[I]nsurance companies will be, and in some cases already are, eager to use these systems to examine disaster areas and detect fraud, as aerial images can help them to compare claims against visible damage…

Other uses are still in the planning phase: Retail stores might want to track traffic around them to know where their customers come from and where they go; major utility companies might want to observe construction activities along underground pipelines.

These new abilities in the hands of the few have shifted

“the balance of power between citizen and state, between individual and corporation, and have eroded to the point of extinction what little remained of the natural rights of privacy, all around the world. For the masses, the feeling that technology develops along an inevitable path reflects their lack of agency — the fact that the crucial decisions about the technological conditions of society will be made by a largely self-regulating confraternity of elites. For engineers and scientists, technological development appears to be driven by a combination of what they can imagine, what is technically feasible, and what governments or markets demand.”

Well worth reading.

Image: False Creek #1

November 21, 2019


November 20, 2019

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but there is usually one or two series running that I am keen to watch each week.  Over the last couple of years, these have included The Good Fight, Vikings, NCIS, and Endeavour.  These days, I am most attracted to Stumptown which is on tonight.

Set in Portland, Oregon, Stumptown is about a troubled PI and her bar-owning buddy. We are used to seeing hard-bitten and difficult men with a lifetime of regret playing the lead in this kind of set up. But here, the PI is a bi-sexual woman suffering from PTSD from her service in Afghanistan, who drinks too much and is not altogether clear on her personal relationships. The scripts are good, with enough humour, low-key action, and sexual tension to keep one interested for 47 minutes, and looking forward to the next episode.  I enjoy the ensemble cast and I most especially enjoy Cobey Smulders.

Having really fallen down on my knowledge of local talent, I was not aware until today that Smulders is from Vancouver.  Interestingly, one of my favourite shows from last year — New Zealand’s Brokenwood Mysteries — also starred an actress called Fern Sutherland who now lives in Vancouver.